Dedicated Vs. Integrated Graphics: Everything You Need To Know

Getting a new computer or laptop is always exciting. But when it comes to choosing between a dedicated graphics card or making your peace with the integrated graphics, things can get a little tricky. On the one hand, there is the promise of excellent performance in any graphics-heavy task. And on the other hand, a compact and cheap system with an iGPU won’t drive the electric bills through the roof. 

To help you make a choice, we have scoured the internet and come up with this article, talking about both dedicated and integrated graphics. In this article, you will get an in-depth comparison of both types of graphics and where each of them shines. We have also included a suggestions section about the different users for the two graphics options and explained the choices in detail. 

Let’s begin. 

What Is A Dedicated Graphics Card?

Dedicated graphics cards, or simply graphics cards, are a set of computer hardware consisting of a GPU, circuitry, memory, and a cooling system. The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is the leading powerhouse that tends to all the computer’s graphical needs. 

As the dedicated GPUs have their own memory and work through the faster PCIe connection, they offer much faster performance even at the most graphically demanding tasks. In simpler terms, dedicated GPUs act as a second CPU, which deals with all the graphical needs, leaving room for the CPU to deal with the computational chores. 

What Is An Integrated Graphics Card?

As the name suggests, integrated graphics are in-built into your CPU and help it perform all the computer’s graphical tasks. But calling it a graphics card is a little misleading, as integrated graphics, in general, is a graphical unit of your CPU that is specially designed to deal with image rendering. 

As such, they don’t have their own dedicated memory and use the system memory (RAM) while performing any tasks. So calling them iGPUs (integrated GPUs) is more appropriate. In general, iGPUs are not as powerful as dedicated GPUs. Still, they are capable enough to get you through casual computing, provided you buy a fast processor with a well-integrated unit for graphics processing.  

Integrated GPU Vs. Dedicated GPU 

Performance, price, and power usage are some of the things you need to keep in mind when talking about any graphics card. With the primary knowledge of integrated and dedicated GPUs, let’s compare them to these basic parameters. 

Performance

Simply put, integrated graphics cannot compete with dedicated graphics cards in terms of performance. That being said, the performance difference that you can perceive depends on your needs a lot. If you use your computer for menial tasks like office work, note-taking, or internet browsing, you will not see any significant difference between the two graphics. 

The modern Integrated GPUs from both Intel and AMD are capable of driving all of your daily needs. But if you use your computer for heavy tasks, like graphics designing, high resolution renders, gaming, the gap in performance of both GPUs starts to widen.

Power Usage

Energy consumption is one of the significant factors that differentiate an integrated GPU from a dedicated graphics card. A dedicated graphics card offers much better performance and draws a lot more power than an integrated GPU. 

Drawing so much power means the card also gets quite hot during usage. To combat this, the dedicated cards come with in-built fans and cooling systems. These cooling systems, in turn, also require more power to run. Meanwhile, integrated GPUs are built into your CPU and don’t require any extra power to operate.

Price

Price is another area besides power efficiency where integrated graphics hands down beats dedicated cards. The superior performance of a dedicated GPU comes with a hefty price tag. Whereas integrated GPUs come with their respective CPUs and do not have any additional cost attached to them. It is one of the biggest reasons that many moderate computer users do not invest in dedicated graphics cards and keep working with the graphics that come with their CPUs. 

Who Should Get A Dedicated Graphics Card? 

Now that we have talked about the fundamental differences between dedicated graphics cards and integrated GPUs let’s see which graphics option suits which type of users. We start with dedicated graphics card users. 

Video Editors & Animators

If you are a professional worker who deals with video editing and animation tasks, it makes sense for you to go for a dedicated graphics card on your PC. That is because a dedicated GPU has the sheer horsepower to carry you through these tasks without breaking a sweat. It will be especially useful while video editing as a discrete GPU will reduce rendering times and give you accurate output, such as color, frame rate, etc. 

3D Modelers & Game Designers

Nothing is more hectic than 3D rendering for your computer. And when it comes to game designing or even 3D animation, your processor will thank you for investing in a high-end dedicated graphics card. If you plan on running software like Autodesk, Twine, Unity, etc., you will experience a massive performance gap between an iGPU and a GPU. And that’s why we recommend going for the latter. 

Gaming Enthusiasts

If you are a gamer, a dedicated graphics card should be your ideal choice. Although modern integrated GPUs, especially those seen in AMD’s Ryzen series, are giving the older graphics cards a run for their money, you’re still better off investing in a dedicated GPU. It will not only boost the frame rates of your latest AAA titles, but you will also experience richer details, better texture quality, and overall increased performance with a discrete graphics card. 

Who Should Get An Integrated Graphics Card?

After talking so much about dedicated graphics, it’s only fair we give the same treatment to the integrated GPUs. Modern iGPUs have come a long way. Some of the models can even compete with some older entry-level dedicated graphics cards. So, let’s go through the scenarios where an iGPU can ideally get the job done. 

People looking for a new casual computing system

It is a very straightforward scenario. If you are not going to play any games and just want a computer or laptop for daily tasks, you should get one with integrated graphics. Modern integrated graphics are capable enough to run videos at higher resolutions, give sharp and crisp images and even let you use some light editing software. So, there is no need to pay extra and get dedicated graphics for your system if none of your tasks involve any heavy graphical rendering. This way you will also save on electricity bills.

Gamers Looking for a Desktop on a Modest Budget

We always advise gamers to get dedicated graphics cards, but if you are tight on budget, you can get a desktop processor with an excellent integrated GPU. That way, you can still play some games, albeit at low settings and resolutions. 

Especially since AMD is releasing their new APUs with Radeon Vega graphics and Intel revamping their integrated graphics, there is a revolution in the iGPU market. Both companies now offer excellent integrated graphics that can run even some modern AAA titles at very low settings. And MMO games like Rocket League, DOTA2 run smoothly on these integrated GPUs. 

Old Users In Need Of A Laptop 

Suppose you are a senior citizen who is just starting to learn how to use modern technology. In that case, most of your tasks will revolve around using the browser to stream video content, FaceTiming your friends and family, and occasionally making online transfers and payments. 

In this scenario, you won’t be able to tell the difference between a dedicated graphics card and an integrated one based on your use case. So we recommend going for the latter as it will save you a lot of money. Similar can be said for kids who want to explore modern computing. Getting an iGPU will be a solid starting foundation for them. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

After discussing dedicated and integrated graphics in detail, let’s check out some of the most common questions asked on these topics. 

How can I determine if I am using an integrated or dedicated graphics card on my PC?

There are two ways you can check it. You can check physically if your monitor is connected to the motherboard or another outlet below it. In the first case, you are using an iGPU and in later, a dedicated graphics card. You can also go to ‘Control Panel -> Device Manager and click on ‘Display adapter’ to see which card you are using. 

Can I use AutoCAD or similar software on a laptop with an Intel integrated graphics card?

Yes, you can use AutoCAD and other professional software with a modern integrated GPU, but it will run much slower. But if you want a good experience and zero lag with similar software, you should consider switching to a more powerful laptop with a dedicated graphics card. 

Can I go for a CPU without integrated graphics if I have a dedicated graphics card on my PC?

A CPU without integrated graphics means you won’t be able to boot up your system without a dedicated graphics card. In fact, all of your system’s graphical workload will be put on to the dedicated GPU. So, if you already have a powerful dedicated graphics card, there is no harm in getting a CPU without integrated graphics and saving some money.

Conclusion 

To summarize everything we have discussed so far, there is no clear winner between integrated and dedicated graphics. Both of them are useful in their own scenarios. If we talk about raw performance, dedicated graphics take the cake. But when it comes to power usage and price, integrated graphics are unbeatable. So, depending on your need and budget, both can serve you very well.

But if you ask us, we recommend building a PC with integrated graphics and then, if you need to, upgrading it by getting a new powerful dedicated graphics card. But if you are going for a laptop, if your budget permits, you should always get one with dedicated graphics, as you cannot upgrade it further. In any case, modern graphics technology has come a long way and has excellent options in terms of both integrated and dedicated graphics. And depending on your use case, they both can serve you very well.

Written By Eric Smith

My name is Eric Smith and I've been working within the tech space for over 10 years, both at one of the largest computer manufacturers (for which I have no affiliation with anymore) but also in the retail sector where I gained a lot of experience in helping people finding suitable tech products.

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